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     In the RAW
    Filed under: — David @ 6:14 pm

    A couple of years ago I bought iLife 06 because I needed the then-new iPhoto’s support for RAW images for my new camera. It had its limitations, though. Anything taken in warm light couldn’t be properly adjusted to look “white” again. Fortunately, I had Photoshop, which had no problem at all with this. In fact, more often than not, Photoshop’s default settings yielded the correct-looking results, whereas iPhoto displayed these photos with an orange tint by default and the best I could do was adjust them to be yellow or green instead. Just not white.

    Below are three sample images: iPhoto’s default display (left), the best I could do with iPhoto 6’s light temperature slider (middle), and Photoshop’s version (right).

    Fortunately, iPhoto 08 fixes this problem: dragging the light temperature slider will now remove the orange tint on these photos just like in Photoshop. It doesn’t let me go as far as I’d sometimes like: the lower limit is 2500, whereas Photoshop goes down to 2000. But usually 2500 is just right.

    It is still curious though that the default display for indoor pictures is so warm, when Photoshop and even the Finder’s column view have no trouble finding the right balance on their own.

    Edit: The “auto-adjust” problem I initially complained about turned out to be an issue with the Mac OS X 10.5 beta.

     iMovie 08 fails, part three
    Filed under: — David @ 11:05 pm

    My new Sony HDR-SR7 camcorder (which I will write in more detail about later) comes with some Windows software which, among other things, will burn a DVD containing whatever footage and pictures are on the camcorder’s hard disk with a single button press - just connect the camcorder to the computer, put in a blank DVD, and press the Disc Burn button on the camcorder.

    It’s pretty convenient, because not only is it an easy way to back up the material from the camcorder, but the resulting disc is in fact a Blu-ray format DVD. It doesn’t hold as much as an actual Blu-ray disc, but it’s enough for about 45 minutes to an hour of HD footage. I don’t know how many Blu-ray players it works on, but it does work on my PlayStation 3, and probably other Sony players as well.

    The problem, again, is iMovie. When iMovie sees this DVD, it apparently thinks it’s looking at a camcorder’s hard disk, and gives a surprising message saying that Mac OS X 10.4 does not support AVCHD, and I should switch my camcorder to SD mode.

    This message is, of course, wrong on two counts. First, this is not a camcorder it’s dealing with, it’s a DVD. Second, we do have AVCHD support in 10.4 with iMovie 08, but apparently it’s limited to importing from the camcorder directly. This is a disappointing limitation, and I think it’s important for Apple to correct it. These DVDs are really the only good way I have of backing up my camcorder footage. Importing into iMovie yields files that are much bigger; they’re easier to edit that way, but less suitable for backups. Plus they leave out some information: iMovie only import stereo sound, but my camcorder has a surround-sound microphone. So I need to be able to use these DVDs as I would the cassettes in a tape-based camcorder. They are my archives, and they are what I turn to when I need to dig up some old footage.

    Some people say that iMovie 08 isn’t all that bad, it’s just a different kind of video editor than the old iMovie was, and it needs to be judged on its own merits. I can see the logic in that argument, but I find that the app falls short even in the new features it introduces - especially the ones I need, and AVCHD support tops that list.

     iMovie 08: More bad news
    Filed under: — David @ 11:47 am

    Two more limitations I discovered in iMovie 08:

    First, you can’t export movies in full HD resolution. The highest it will go is 960x540, which is 1/4 the size of a full 1080p image. Now, it’s actually debatable how much of a limitation this is, since the source data from the camcorder is 1080i - the “i” stands for interlaced, where each frame contains every other line of pixels, and the next frame contains the other half of the lines. So 1080i is effectively 1920x540. In 1080p (p is for progressive), which is usually considered “full” HD, each frame contains the entire image and the resolution is a full 1920x1080. So while I may not have “full” HD to start with, it still seems that iMovie is only giving me half my pixels. It makes me wonder if this is why they changed the name from iMovie HD back to plain iMovie.

    Second, if you cancel importing a clip, it still goes on to generate the skimming thumbnails for the partially imported clip, and this step lacks a Cancel button. I canceled the import because it was taking too long, so following it up with a second process that was both slow and uninterruptable is not good software design.

    So be warned: AVCHD importing does not happen in real time: the time it will take will be some multiple of the length of the clip. So don’t start an import unless you have time to finish it.

     iMovie 08 initial notes
    Filed under: — David @ 8:12 am

    Yesterday I bought iLife ‘08, partly because the new iPhoto looks good but mainly because I want the AVCHD compatibility in the new iMovie, in anticipation of my new camcorder. At first as I was installing it I was thinking there weren’t many files in my Movies folder so iMovie wouldn’t be much fun to try until the camcorder actually arrived. But I had forgotten there were some movies I had taken with my digital camera, which iMovie automatically picked up as part of my clip library.

    First it took 6 minutes generating “thumbnails” for my clips, which apparently meant preparing the caches for the skimming feature. According to the iPulse display, this process is not multi-threaded and could have been faster on my dual-core MacBook Pro.

    The first annoyance I discovered was that dragging clips into a project was a two step process: select a portion of the clip, then drag. What if I want to drag the whole clip? A bit of experimenting showed that I have to hold down the option key to click and drag a whole clip. This seems backwards, since it’s more common for me to drag whole clips. I tried the preference option “clicking in event browser selects entire clips”, but that only changes the behavior of a single click, not a click and drag.

    Once a transition is in place, you can option-drag it to copy it to another clip boundary. But again this is a two step process: click to select, option-drag to copy. That is even more unnecessary, since it makes no sense to select a portion of a transition.

    Some people have complained that without a timeline you can’t add sound effects to a movie. While I also bemoan the loss of the timeline, it turns out sound effects are still a feature. When you drag in a sound file, there are two ways to drop it: into the background, where it becomes part of the soundtrack, or into a clip where it anchors to that time in the clip, as a sound effect. Sound effects can overlap, but soundtrack clips always play one after the other. If you want to rearrange your soundtrack clips, you have to open a sheet dialog instead of dragging them around. It seems to me a real timeline would have made this simpler.

    What I’m hoping is that I’ll be able to use iMovie 08 to import the AVCHD video from my camcorder, and then export it somehow to iMovie 06 for proper editing. Either that or Final Cut Express gets AVCHD support real soon.

    Edit: Using iMovie 06 to open imported movies from iMovie 08’s “iMovie Events” folder works just fine. Now I’m hoping FCE’s expected AVCHD import will preserve the surround sound channels.

     Coding style
    Filed under: — David @ 10:58 am

    Working at a company with an established, official coding style has led me to think about my own style, especially since it happens to be different in many ways from the one used at Google. This is my first time working at a company with an officially documented coding style, so working under less constrained conditions over the years has allowed me to develop a style based more on my own observations and preferences. Because I occasionally I feel the need to organize and document my thoughts (hence this blog), I have taken the time to document my own C/C++/Objective-C coding style.

    For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, in large part it comes down to the fact that certain popular programming languages, such as C++, allow a great deal of flexibility in the “white space” that can be placed between the words and symbols in a program, so you can format and indent your program with any combination of spaces, tabs, and blank lines. There are also few restrictions when it comes to naming various elements of the program (variables, functions, etc), especially since these names will only be seen by the programmers and not the users. As a result, there is a wide variety of coding styles based on various people’s opinions on readability, efficiency, and of course laziness.

    Coding style can also cover more than just formatting and naming. There are also various language features and constructs which people will have varying opinions about as well, all of which are endlessly discussed, argued, and documented. Some poeple can get quite fervent about their own stance, but I think the majority of differences are still more a matter of opinion than anything else.

    But since my own opinions are indirectly published in my open source projects (ACCELA, Volley, and XVG), I thought it might be useful to formalize them.

     Anxiously Engaged
    Filed under: — David @ 9:38 am

    I rarely post things here about my personal life, sticking instead to things related to this site’s content, plus the occasional rant, opinion, or experience that I figure might be of interest.

    But I decided to make an exception in this case because, as Lisa has already mentioned in her blog, we got engaged. Now of course everyone’s dying to know when the Big Day will be, and all that, but it’s only been a couple of days, so we’re still hammering out the details.

    On the one hand, getting engaged solved some problems - questions about dating and the relationship aren’t much of an issue now, but they’ve been replaced by plenty of other questions about the who, what, when and where of the wedding. Crazy. But in a few months we’ll be able to move on from getting married to being married, which was the whole point anyway.


    This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.

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